Stanford has about as good a shot at being a surprise this year as any other team not currently on the national radar. They opened the season with an eight-point win against Oregon State, a game in which they were the underdog.
Although their schedule is not easy, they only have four games against ranked opponents left on the schedule, but after last year’s win over USC—called the “biggest upset ever” in Palo Alto—there’s no telling who they could upset next.
They probably have the best chance of any unranked team to upset a ranked opponent when they take on conference opponent Arizona State this weekend.
After their game against the Sun Devils, the Cardinal play five unranked opponents before they take on the current No. 23 ranked team in the country, UCLA.
They could realistically win four of those five games, with their most likely trip-up being on September 27 when they face former Cardinal head coach, Ty Willingham, and University of Washington.
The end or their schedule is rough though with three of their last five games against ranked opponents and their last game away against hated-rival Cal.
With confident sophomore quarterback Tavita Pritchard starting for the Cardinal, the offense can only get better throughout the season. Pritchard did not have a great start to the season, but he should not be blamed for his minuscule 91 yards through the air against the Beavers since he only attempted 17 passes (with 10 completions).
It looks as though head coach Jim Harbaugh is going to rely on the rushing attack this season with the team amassing 210 yards on the ground during the first contest, giving them better than a two-to-one ratio on rushing to passing yards.
Junior running back Toby Gerhart showed he was ready to carry the offensive load during the first game of the season. Even though he has just over 600 yards in his career, he ran for 147 during the team’s first game, but the most amazing statistic is his 7.7 yards per carry (not to mention his two touchdowns). If Gerhart can continue to produce somewhere close to that rate for the rest of the season, the Stanford running game will be in the top of the Pac Ten.
This is a team that is also building for the future. With a sophomore quarterback and five players already committed for the 2009 season with a grade of 78 or higher, the Cardinal may not be able to be a sleeper pick much longer.
Coming off the team’s biggest win in at least a decade last season, Harbaugh has the Cardinal faithful believing something big can happen this year and in the seasons to come.
The Cardinal may not end the season ranked, but they will make a bowl game for the first time in a while. They could finish 8-4, although 7-5 is more realistic, making them a lock for a bowl game.